Why are so many highly unusual animals named Oscar? Especially cats?
A kitty career criminal in Southamptom, UK, is named Oscar. This feline version of Dick Turpin has a penchant for swiping whatever he can get his paws on, but specializes in items of clothing, especially underwear. When his total swag amounted to over seventy items, his owners took the unusual action of reporting their pet to the police. Peter Weismantel and his wife were afraid their neighbors would suspect something more perverse was going on. The police, while amused, were quite understanding about the Weismantels’ concern. The problem, however, is that they specialize in human delinquents. At last report, Oscar remains on the prowl.
Then there is Oscar the therapy cat, living in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island. An angel disguised as a cat, Oscar has set himself the task of keeping vigil over dying patients. Oddly, he doesn’t much like the ordinary patients, often hissing at them, as though afraid they might distract him from his duty. The Steere House is home to a 41 bed unit that houses patients in their last stage of life. Just like the staff, Oscar makes his own rounds, stopping to curl up and sleep with those patients he senses are about to pass on, sometimes attempting to give them what comfort he can. When the event occurs, Oscar gets up and quietly leaves. He has successfully ‘predicted’ so many patients’ deaths (his streak is over 50, last I heard) that when the staff sees him curled up on someone’s bed they often call the family to let them know the time is near. Most families find Oscar a comfort, but on the infrequent occasions he is removed from a room he will pace the hallway outside meowing in protest until ‘his’ patient’s passing.
Another well-known Oscar feline is Oscar the bionic cat, who had both hind paws severed in a combine harvester accident. The cat was rushed to a local vet who referred his owners to Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopaedic surgeon in Surrey. Fitzpatrick decided to try a procedure never done before. Implants called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics custom made for Oscar were fitted into holes drilled in his ankle bones. They have a structure like a honeycomb, which allows skin to bond to them, preventing infection. Oscar’s experience has helped move the technology one step closer to being available for human use.
Perhaps the most famous feline Oscar, though, was the ship’s cat of the German battleship Bismarck in WWII. When the Bismarck was sunk in it’s first and only action, only 115 of her crew of over 2200 survived. Oscar was found floating on a board hours afterward and rescued by the destroyer HMS Cossack, being ‘enlisted’ as ship’s cat for them. A few months later HMS Cossack was torpedoed while escorting a convoy, killing 159 of her crew, with Cossack sinking while under tow shortly thereafter. Oscar survived once again. After spending some time ashore at Gibralter, Oscar was transferred to the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, one of the ships instrumental in sinking the Bismarck, Oscar’s first berth. On her way back from Malta, HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed, later sinking thirty miles from Gibraltar. This time all but one of the crew was saved, but it was the end of Oscar’s maritime career. He was retired to a seaman’s home in Belfast, where, just another beached old salt, he lived until 1955.
Cats are not alone in this. A number of famous dogs have also been named Oscar. For example, Oscar the globe-trotting dog who visited 29 countries, having his picture taken in each, to promote the adoption of stray dogs. Or Oscar the hypno-dog, a black labrador who has a career as a stage hypnotist.
So, why Oscar?
Update 3/7/11: As of March, 2010, Oscar the vietnamese potbellied pig was the world’s oldest pig!